I have been a witness to the power of Resiliency that is imprinted in our genes. It was not an experience that I chose, although I feel privileged - life has a way of making choices that we must accept. Days ago my Father reached a point in his 92nd year in which his physical, mental and emotional resiliency needed to sustain his life were no longer strong enough for him to win the fight.
He had made it clear that he wanted to survive only if he had the resiliency to do it on his own. He had always been self-reliant; he didn’t want artificial resiliency imposed on him at the end.
My Father encountered and overcame many adversities in his life. He married just before leaving for Africa in World War II. Shortly after he arrived his wife died accidentally. He was not permitted to return home from the war for her funeral. Before the War life was difficult. He was part of a large immigrant family, 9 children in total, that struggled to make a home in the United States. He was nine years old when the Great Depression hit. He helped his family manage during this crisis until he was inducted into the Army when he was 22. He survived the War and the deaths of his parents and three brothers.
After the War he married my Mother and they both worked hard to provide a comfortable life for my sister and me. My Dad was never one to complain and always worked a second job on weekends. I can’t recall him ever being sick or missing a day of work. In fact, he continued to work part-time at a local country club where he caddied as an adolescent until he was 89. I remember him telling me that he didn’t think he was going to work that spring and summer at the club; almost apologizing for his decision to finally retire. That year the club gave him a lifetime membership.
I know that he and my Mom had difficult times during their relationship, but they both worked to not have their problems become our problems. He was committed and devoted to his family. My Mom experienced a number of serious health problems. She was diagnosed with lymphoma and went through a course of chemotherapy. She later had a series of cardiovascular problems that required surgeries. Throughout all her health difficulties my Dad remained at her side and optimistic.
My Mom died eleven years ago during open-heart surgery. She was kept alive with machines for a few days hoping that her heart would recover and take over – it didn’t. Dad had to make the decision to let her pass. I know he was deeply pained, as we all were by this experience. After Mom’s death, Dad lived on his own, frequently visiting her grave to leave flowers.
He kept active playing golf, attending church and mowing the fairways at his country club. After being away for many years I had the opportunity to move back into the. We became good buddies. We bought season tickets to UCONN football and enjoyed our tailgate lunches before each game. He enjoyed visiting our home, making friends with our neighbors and taking trips over the holidays to see his granddaughters and great grandchildren.
He no longer takes in food or liquids; he does not speak – it’s only a matter of time before his body will shut down. I know there is no going back and I know that this is his choice. It’s not easy watching the ebb and flow of his breathing – there are times when his chest stops. I place my hand on his chest wanting him to breathe and at the same time to not suffer. After a short time he takes in another breath and so do I.
The nurse listens to his heart and lungs and marvels at how strong it is. He has a resilient heart. Even under these extreme conditions it keeps beating. His heart always pursued life and now it is carrying him to the precipice of death.
I realized that when resiliency flourishes in one’s life – there is no giving in or up. This man never did, why should his heart? It knew only one way; it had only one choice; it must go through a process of using up every last resilient beat.
I just knew that his chest wouldn’t rise again. After three days of knowing, I still wasn’t prepared. My hand and his chest were motionless. My heart was desperately reaching for its resiliency.
The power of resiliency is astounding and positive and yet there is a hardness to it. The process of overcoming and transforming adversity in one’s life is not easy or pleasant and sometimes can be painful. Resiliency doesn’t promise an easy road it; only promises to take you down that road as far as you want to go.
My Dad came to that point in his journey. I know it was easier for him to accept than it is for me. What I will remember most is the twinkle in his blue eyes, his loyalty and his resilient heart.
The Seven Rituals of Renewal ™ are behavior choices that will change your life, and by incorporating these Rituals into your day you will notice a decrease in your stress level, which will give you more energy, focus, and a positive outlook. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m already to busy; I can’t fit one more thing into my day!” Well, what’s the alternative? Is it to continue your day of “hurry and worry” and eventually wear yourself down to the point where you don’t have the physical, mental and emotional energy to enjoy life! Recent studies indicate that most people waste about 2.9 hours a day.
The healthy and resilient alternative to “hurry and worry” is to build a practice of these Seven Rituals. There is one practice for each letter of the word renewal, and the beauty of this practice is that all seven will take about 60 minutes, which you can schedule throughout the day, and still have 1.9 hours to waste!
The Alchemy of the Seven Rituals of Renewal is that each one has the capacity to have a positive affect on your body chemistry, which in turn has a beneficial impact on your mental, emotional and physical being. When you practice the A of Appreciation you will stimulate the production of a hormone called oxytocin, which has a mitigating effect on the stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Oxytocin can reduce hyper-vigilance, which cortisol is responsible for, and give you a sense of calmness.
Seven Rituals of Renewal™
R: Take 10-15 minutes each day to Reflect. No special topic or requirements other than to turn off all electronic gear, sit quite without any interruptions. Take yourself off the grid; be quite and reflect.
E: Get some Exercise everyday. This doesn’t have to be at a fitness center; just do something that gets your body moving e.g. park your car a distance form your office, take a short walk during lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. 10 minutes is great. This is not a weight reduction and muscle building routine; its about getting oxygen into you body and brain.
N: Select and eat one thing that is Nutritious everyday; select a piece of fruit or unsalted almonds instead of chips or candy. You’ll feel good about your decision and they’re good for you! Many people report that they don’t eat breakfast or take lunch; use this ritual as a healthy snack in the morning or mid-afternoon.
E: Engage with someone you love every day. It’s best face to face, but phone or one of those video phone services will suffice occasionally; make sure the engagement is about the love not about a TV program. Call a child or grandchild; your goal is to feel the love! Once again take yourself off the grid.
W: Take time to experience some Wackiness in you day. Find something that will give you a good round of laughter, the more the better. It’s not as hard as you might think. Just think about laughing and you might crack a smile and begin to laugh. You actually may find yourself laughing about nothing and enjoying it! However, the absolute best is whenever you are in the company of young kids and they start laughing about something goofy, just let yourself enjoy and join in!
A: Spend a moment in Appreciation. Think about all that you have to appreciate. Each day find something in your life that deserves your appreciation. I know, when we’re stressed we only notice what’s stressing us, and that’s exactly why you need to stop and appreciate that you have oxygen to breathe!
L: is for Letting Go. It’s amazing how much negative stuff we acquire from the time we get up in the morning to the time we retire. Anger, regrets, disappointments are just a few. Forgive, forget and move-on. There are so many more important things to use our limited energy on. There is a saying, “It’s not worth sticky palettes!” You know, the things in our blood that get thick and stick together when were stressed.
The amazing thing about each of these rituals is that each one has the power to change your entire being and when you incorporate al seven on daily basis they can change your life. The decision is yours, continue the hurry – worry game and reduce your health, effectiveness and joy in work and life or start right now to practice the Seven Rituals of Renewal™ and experience the best of you.
The Renewal Group can assist you in changing your life with our four one-hour Seven Rituals of Renewal coaching program. Our commitment and belief is that this program will improve your well-being, and continued daily practice will have a significant benefit to your health and satisfaction with life and work.
Stress is a form of terrorism that infiltrates and attacks our hearts and minds and the effectiveness of our organizations. It’s an assassin waiting to strike at our Resiliency. Unfortunately the full significance and seriousness of stress is misunderstood and under valued. We use the word indiscriminately, and can’t seem to connect the dots. We stress equally over the inconvenience of a hangnail, and the fear of a global financial meltdown. And like the terror attacks we can’t seem to connect the dots until we suffer a major setback, such as a heart attack. As our lives have become increasing complicated, our ability to assign an appropriate level of threat to a stressor has decreased, leaving us increasingly vulnerable.
Since it’s inception the Advisory Threat System has been at yellow and above, and our lives and organizations have been in lock step with the system.
We cannot solve the issues of Homeland Security, although it might be healthy for our country to be continuously at yellow or above, it is not sustainable to live our lives’ at an elevated level of stress. If we consciously and or unconsciously continue to live at yellow or above we have become our worst fears – we are the terrorists.
Stress is a Disease:
We cannot rid our lives and organizations of stress; in fact, we need certain levels of stress to be productive. We need to educate ourselves about the different types of stress, acute and chronic, and learn ways of managing both types to prevent our lives and organizations from becoming drained of vitality, creativity, and the resiliency required to be effective and successful in these stressful times.
Stress is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease that is a major contributing factor to increased healthcare utilization and costs, illness and disease and lost productivity: personally, professionally, organizationally and nationally.
The following points highlight the enormity of the problem and its costs:
* Princeton Survey Research study, three-quarters of employees believe that there is more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
* A Northwestern National Life study found that one in four employees viewed their jobs as the No. 1 source of stress in their lives.
* Gallup reports 80 percent of employees suffer from job stress with nearly 40 percent reporting that they need help in managing their stress.
* Job stress costs American businesses hundreds of billions of dollars a year in employee burnout, turnover, higher absenteeism, lower production and increased health care costs.
* The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 percent of all absences are due to stress-related issues, costing U.S. companies more than $57 billion a year.
* Heart disease is the second largest killer next to cancer. It is estimated that some 80 million Americans exhibit some of the symptoms that will lead to heart disease. The six contributing factors to heart disease are Diet, Exercise, Stress/Sleep, Lifestyle and The Environment. A recent study found that women with stressful jobs have a 40% higher risk of major coronary problems than women with less job strain.
Our current worrisome and stressful social and economic climate is compounding the risks to our health and performance; just worrying about losing a job can increase your coronary risks. These findings should be a call to raise the national Stress Threat Level to RED; alerting leaders to the dangers stress poses to their ability to reduce costs, increase productivity, and remain competitive. A stressful organizational climate is a petri dish for breeding illness, accidents, disengaged employees, inferior customer service, and unproductive team and organizational behavior. And like many infectious diseases it is pervasive and has no boundaries. It is a factor in poor school performance, abusive and violent behavior, and relationship discord.
Stress and the Brain: The Amydala is our 911 Call Center
Stress is personal. How one interprets a situation, will determine how they feel and how they react; yet, our brains stress response mechanism is basically identical. The paradox of stress is that the parts of our brain responsible for igniting the stress response, by releasing the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and driving emotions such as fear, the amydalae, think they are doing us a service! And when we need to take immediate action to avoid a threat it does; however, there is a down side.
Our brain’s stress response mechanism is designed to handle acute stress. These stressors are usually perceived as immediate threats to our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, and they are time limited. An example of an acute stressor is what you might experience when an 18-wheeler wants your lane, and doesn’t ask for permission to take it – Stress Level RED! If you’ve been in this situation or can imagine it, you may have noticed an increase in your heart rate, and a few other physical and emotional changes; the critical factor is that it provides you with the focus, energy, and ability to immediately blow your horn, and move into the breakdown lane. This almost instantaneous response, sometimes referred to as Hijacking, allowed you to survive this threat! Within a few minutes your body begins to return to “normal”, but your eyes and ears stay finely attuned to all the other 18-wheeler threats still on the road. When you encounter the next 18-wheeler you may notice a bit of tension until you are safely back into your lane. Your amydalae will remain hyper-vigilant (Level Yellow) scanning for all additional potential threats, as well as retain this stressful incident for future reference. And this is the problem – we remain on hyper-vigilant mode. We are constantly at threat levels yellow, orange, or red, which cause us to exaggerate every other stressor we encounter.
In stressful work climates, employees are on constant alert, which reduces their creativity, increases tension, frustration and fatigue - adding a negative overlay to all situations, which increases the chances of numerous Amygdala Hijackings.
In today’s uncertain and turbulent times we are experiencing numerous acute stressors, “My computer won’t boot as fast as I want it to.” compounded and complicated with chronic stress. The difference is that chronic stress is stress we experience over a prolonged period, and our perception is that we have minimal or no control over it, e.g. an unsatisfactory job or a stressful work climate. Chronic Stress creates a constant level of strain, which has an eroding and corroding effect on our well-being and performance. This is double trouble; the combination of chronic and acute stress reduces and constricts our personal, professional and organizational health and effectiveness.
Stop Acute Stressors from becoming Chronic:
In most cases an acute stressor will come to an end. Remaining optimistic and keeping things in perspective helps acute stressors dissipate and end in a timely manner. Be cautious not to convert an acute stressor into a chronic stressor. Here’s an example. During a meeting you perceive a colleague’s comments about a proposal you have made to be inappropriately sarcastic. You react rudely, you’re short and dismissive – maybe you even yell at the person. This exchange sets off the stress response in both of you. Hopefully, sooner than later, you recognize that you were Hijacked and your behavior was not productive for the relationship and the team. By offering an authentic apology for your reaction, you can begin to lower the threat level from yellow to blue or green, and bring the stressful situation to a conclusion. If you keep the threat level at yellow or above, you and your colleague may carry this stressful baggage into every other situation increasing the chances that another reaction will occur. What should have been an acute stressor can linger and turn into a chronic negative relationship, which doesn’t serve either of you well.This is not unusual, most people have stories similar to this situation, and it frequently happens when people carry stress home with them and respond to a loved one with their pent up stress from the workday.
Commit to Address your Chronic Stress:
Chronic stressors require more thought and effort to deal with. If you’re in a job or relationship that is not meeting your expectations, it’s very hard to just quit and move on. You may need the job for income and health insurance. And although the relationship has features that are not meeting your needs, there may be many aspects that are. In both cases take time to reflect on want you want and then take action that provides you with a sense of moving towards a resolution. Take small steps and focus on aspects that you have control over. By taking small steps towards a resolution you will reduce your stress, feel more hopeful and will benefit from an increase in energy to address the problem more fully.
In the job scenario you can start looking for another job or explore how you may move within your organization to another position that better meets your interests and strengths. In both situations outside assistance or counseling from a friend, mentor or professional can help you find perspective and suggest a process that will help to move the job and the relationship situations in a positive direction.
Three Steps that are helpful in Addressing Chronic Stress:
* Take time to reflect on the situation. What is it that you want? Be as clear as possible.
* Ask yourself, “What am I contributing to the situation?” and commit to changing your behavior first.
* Most Chronic stressors require a process of taking small steps. Identify pro-active, positive steps that you can take. Be patient, but be active in the process of moving in the direction of a resolution.
If you chose not to address your personal and organizational chronic and acute stress you are risking your health, performance and satisfaction with work and life. Most of all, you are eroding your resiliency at a time when everyone needs his or her resiliency to be at its peak. However, the dangers of untreated stress are far more significant than one might realize.
Stress s a symptom and a transmission factor to a communicable disease that is preventing individuals and organizations from achieving their highest potential; we call it Chronic Human Wasting Disease™. CHMW is an infectious disease that strikes at the heart of individual, team and organizational performance. It subverts and steals the essence of human and organizational effectiveness and success – intrinsic motivation and potential. If CHWD is not treated, it will eventually destroy what you need and value most, your human resources and their potential.
The Renewal Group is your source for preventing and treating the causes and consequences of stress, which is one important step in preventing Chronic Human Wasting Disease™. If you believe that people are your most important asset, and if you are committed to achieving a healthy and effective organization where people thrive and their potential and performance flourishes contact us for a consultation.